Saudi Reformation?


Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in Martin Luther’s Germany, Henry VIII’s England, or revolutionary America? I sure have. And now we can watch what it is like. That is essentially what is happening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Myron Magnet wrote about it in City Journal yesterday.

How extraordinary to see a world-historical revolution unfolding before one’s eyes and not know how it will turn out: that’s what’s happening right now in Saudi Arabia. Mohammad bin Salman, a 32-year-old too young to be a partner in most law or finance firms, has managed, by intrigue not yet fully disclosed, to supplant his cousin Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef as heir to the throne and to carry out a purge of the royal family breathtaking in its sweep. Imagine: not only did bin Salman order the arrest of at least ten other princes and a score of former government ministers, now held in luxurious restraint in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton; he also supposedly had Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men and a major shareholder of 21st Century Fox, Citigroup, Apple, Twitter, and a host of other giant Western corporations, hanged upside down and beaten in an “anti-corruption” investigation.

No matter that “wasta”—corruption, kickbacks, and cronyism—has long governed Saudi Arabian business dealings. Now, the kingdom’s economic crown jewel—Aramco, the Saudi state oil company—is headed for sale on the public stock markets, and the financial future of the kingdom and its oligarchs is on the line. Sadly for the Saudis, Aramco is no longer as valuable, economically and geopolitically, as it once was. Natural gas from fracking has displaced oil as the fuel of the Western economy, with the result that OPEC (and, less critically, Russian oil) can no longer hold anybody’s economy hostage. […]

I’m not completely certain that the Russia part of the story is less critical, but the Saudi story is certainly more gripping at the moment.

Economic modernization and diversification, the prince saw, were essential, and they required social liberalization as the first order of business, beginning with allowing women to drive cars, the royal road to women’s liberation. Already, Saudi women are casting off the hijab and seizing modern social pleasures. The important point is that half the kingdom’s potential workforce will become free to produce, with hugely positive consequences for the economy.

But that’s only part of the social revolution that the prince’s economic transformation entails. Crucially, the royal family will find it harder to fund the radical Wahhabi Islam that OPEC has let grow like mushrooms. It’s hard to imagine that this well-established, well-fed worldwide network of terrorist-supporting fanatics, in their opulent mosques and madrassas—and especially in the more Spartan ones in Pakistan—will go quietly; little wonder that the prince has surrounded himself with a repressive security apparatus reminiscent of the Shah of Iran’s. He appears to be a quiet but inexorable foe of Muslim extremism, and consequently it is uncertain that he will emerge from his heroic and visionary remaking of the Saudi order with his head intact on his shoulders. Many a social liberalization has spun out of control and produced anarchy or fascist counterrevolution. But well-wishers have long hoped that some Muslim Martin Luther would purge Islam of its quotient of bloodlust and allow the self-perfecting, ethical version of its peaceful adherents to prevail in a secular society, where separation of mosque and state makes religion a private matter. In a medieval region like Arabia, it turns out, a king might do the job equally well—if he can survive to inherit the throne and rule from it. And then the question will be whether his revolution can last, as the Pahlavis’ and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s did not.

I tend to wonder whether Henry VIII is a closer parallel than Martin Luther, a top-down imposed reformation rather than Luther’s more or less bottom-up one, but then I’m an Anglophile, and its a pretty small point, overall.

But the ramifications are breathtaking. While we American worry more about the Iranians (not to mention their manifold connections with North Korea) Britain, who have more problems with homegrown terrorists than we do, worries quite a lot more about KSA and Wahhabism. Different experiences, different outcomes.

The US, for all our conventional power, often focusses on strategic weapons (read nuclear missiles). That’s important, and I think the Brits (and others) should pay more attention, that Nork launch last week means that all of the northern hemisphere is a target, in fact, London is closer than Los Angeles.

But that doesn’t make the British focus on KSA wrong. The Saudis have financed a lot of bad actors, especially in Pakistan, where a lot of the British problem originates. Remember Pakistan was, like India, part of the Raj, the British Empire in South Asia. It complicates a lot of things for them, and this is one of them.

What will happen? I simply have no idea, I don’t know enough. But it has many good possibilities, just as that document signed on 2 July 1776 did. But like that document, it may well have to be made good in blood, and even if it is, it may be worth it. I guess we’ll see if we live long enough.

Good luck to the Crown Prince though, I think he is on the right track.


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9 Responses to Saudi Reformation?

  1. Nicholas says:

    Ezekiel 38:13 “Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?”

    This I believe is some indication of the rift between KSA with its “moderate” allies, and the Turkish-Iranian alliance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good biblical aspect from Nicholas, let’s hope it has more than application however?

    Only time will of course tell whether all this will have Prophetic aspects and fulfillment? But we are surely seeing things we have NEVER seen in the West, as too the Middle East! But GOD has given us surely certain biblical outlines! (Zech. 12 ; 13 ; 14 / with Revelation 1: 7 ; chap. 19… 2 Thess. 2) To God be the Glory!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Btw, I personally believe we are seeing something of both the prophetic & eschatological fulfillment in St. Paul’s Last Will & Testament of the Letter of 2 Timothy! Note say from chapter 2: 15 thru chapter 3, 4: 1-4.. noting verse 8! Certainly something of the depth of chap. 3 is unfolding before us! “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (Verses 5 & 7) Sadly daily we are seeing this in our time of modernity & postmodernity! See too Luke 18: 7-8.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. the unit says:

    I have an idea about what will happen. There will be blood. 🙂
    “It is regrettable that the crown prince’s version of history and his policies are being welcomed in Western circles, including within liberal ones.” – Basheer Nafi
    Basheer Nafi? In 1996 Basheer Nafi, who had been working as a top-level researcher and editor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (Herndon, Virginia), was arrested by federal Immigration and Naturalization Service agents and charged with immigration fraud. He was considered an active leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization who was working for a network of academic front groups, and was linked as well to the Islamist militant group Hamas. He pleaded guilty to a lesser violation of his visa status, and was deported and barred from entering the U.S. for five years. ( from Wiki)
    And… a Senior Research Fellow at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies. ( from Middle East Eye)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do wonder about our friend MbS. My suspicions are that most of his actions – including the socially-liberal reforms – are geared towards consolidating his own power as king-to-be. The Henry VIII comparison is actually quite apt – top-down reforms, clashes with the religious establishment, and a warmonger to boot. Interesting times indeed – he will certainly shape the next ten years in the Gulf; it remains to be seen whether for good or ill.

    Liked by 1 person

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